Friday, February 29, 2008

Hillary Clinton’s Texas Two-Step

From the you’ve got to be kidding me section of the election, I’m sorry but Hillary is going to far. I was watching the McNeil/Lehrer Report on PBS this week and Hillary Clinton was being interviewed. In the interview Senator Clinton had the nerve to say that she knew back in the fall of 2007 that this election was going to turn out like it has. She stated that she knew she was going to be in a tough fight with Senator Obama and she told her campaign to prepare for Texas and Ohio. I am not even going to tear apart the complete absurdity of this statement. There are countless links I could include that contradict this statement, but hopefully they are not necessary. The point that I want to discuss is that if this is in fact true then how would she explain the following.

Texas' odd system of allocating delegates has flummoxed the Clinton campaign. Clinton told reporters over the weekend that her aides were still struggling to understand how the state operates.

"I've got people trying to understand it as we speak," she said. "Grown men are crying as we speak. I had no idea it was so bizarre."

Asked by ABC News how the Clinton campaign would define success in Texas, Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson said
he wasn't sure.[1]

So my question is this, if you knew as you said that Texas and Ohio were going to still be in play last fall and you had your campaign staff studying the process how can you now say that you and them do not understand it? Are you saying that after almost a year of research and not to mention your experience from two previous Presidential elections that you don’t understand the process? I find this a little bit incredulous to believe. I think the truth is closer to what you predicted last fall that this campaign would not go past Super Tuesday, so Texas would be inconsequential. It seems the Senator would like to have it both ways that she knew it would come down to this or that she expected it to be over by Super Tuesday. I can understand her logic not wanting to acknowledge that she was overconfident and ill-prepared for this contest.

However this type of doubletalk only reinforces a common criticism against the Senator which is she is living far removed from the reality on the ground and an inability to honestly assess her situation. The situation in Texas is not the only problem for the Clinton campaign, her leads in the remaining states have all but evaporated and she is hemorrhaging super-delegates. Because of its size and diversity Texas I don’t think can deliver what Hillary needs. Because delegates are allocated based on participation in previous elections even if Hillary keeps the areas of her previous strengths she could still lose the delegate count. I agree with the Senator that grown men in her campaign are crying but not due to the complexity of Texas election laws. I think they are sobbing because they realize that her strong support areas will not deliver the requisite number of delegates needed.

So, okay. Here's what we've learned this primary season from the Clinton campaign. Some processes (primaries) are more important than others (caucuses). Some states (Massachusetts, California) are more important than others (Virginia, Utah). Nevada teachers are more important than Nevada hotel and casino employees. And now, voters that vote in the daytime are more important than those who vote at night.

The strategy of trying to marginalize and dismiss the supporters and voters for Senator Obama has backfired significantly and has only helped to cause division in the Party. I find it very interesting that the supporters for these two candidates have developed so much discord and rancor. One would think that the supporters for these two historical candidacies would have more in common, but this primary season seems to have uncovered some deep divisions within the two camps and maybe the Party. It is not that there isn’t disagreement or deep support for their candidates, it has escalated to an almost malicious level with each side accusing the other of outlandish charges. If this continues I fear that there could be some lasting damage to the eventual winner.

The problem is that it took a historical candidacy to defeat a historical candidacy. Who could have predicted that we would be presented with these two candidates at the exact same moment in history. It seems that supporters of both candidates wants their candidate to be the first to make history and each somehow feels betrayed by supporters of the other candidate who selfishly want to do the same thing. Because they are similar candidacies any perceived or actual differences seem to be exaggerated to the detriment of the electorate. Minor miscues have been escalated to the point far exceeding their importance. I guess familiarity does breed contempt.


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Thursday, February 28, 2008

It Depends On Your Definition of Lobbyist

According to Senator McCain, just because your campaign is being run by lobbyists that doesn’t mean you are still not anti-lobbyist. The straight-talker now wants us to believe that his lobbyists are not like the other ones populating Washington. That’s right his lobbyists are honorable and he is never influenced by their pressure. While for many non-Christian wing-nuts the issue is not whether McCain did or did not have relations with that woman, it is purely political and whether that woman had undue influence over the Senator. So according to the Senator, a lobbyist isn’t a lobbyist if they work for his campaign.

McCain attorney Robert S. Bennett played down the contradiction between the campaign's written answer and Paxson's recollection.

"We understood that he [McCain] did not speak directly with him [Paxson]. Now it appears he did speak to him. What is the difference?" Bennett said. "McCain has never denied that Paxson asked for assistance from his office. It doesn't seem relevant whether the request got to him through Paxson or the staff. His letters to the FCC concerning the matter urged the commission to make up its mind. He did not ask the FCC to approve or deny the application. It's not that big a deal."

The Paxson deal, coming as McCain made his first run for the presidency, has posed a persistent problem for the senator. The deal raised embarrassing questions about his dealings with lobbyists at a time when he had assumed the role of an ethics champion and opponent of the influence of lobbyists.

The two letters he wrote to the FCC in 1999 while he was chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee produced a rash of criticism and a written rebuke from the then-FCC chairman, who called McCain's intervention "highly unusual." McCain had repeatedly used Paxson's corporate jet for his campaign and accepted campaign contributions from the broadcaster and his law firm.[1]

My question is how did Ms. Iseman get such complete access to Senator McCain? I am a skeptic granted but I know that for many men there are two types of women in the world the ones they have slept with and the ones they have yet to sleep with. It isn’t important to me whether Senator McCain slept with that lobbyist or any other lobbyist, politicians probably should sleep with them because then we wouldn’t end up being the only ones screwed. My main concern is the fact that John McCain has made a career of promoting himself as anti-lobbyist and now we see just as with all of McCain’s other claims to fame this one has no merits either. A lobbyist is a lobbyist and the sooner the Senator can acknowledge that the better. The most troubling thing about this whole affair are the lies starting to come out of the McCain camp. Not the lies about any sort of tryst between the Senator and Ms. Iseman, but the lies concerning his actions on her behalf and involving her. First there was the lies concerning meeting with Mr. Paxson on behalf of Ms. Iseman, why would that man have any reason to lie and say he met with Senator McCain when he didn’t? The second is the lies about whether his campaign was concerned enough about the relationship to have to have a discussion with the Senator and Ms. Iseman, obviously if it gets to this level someone thinks there is a problem. Why would his campaign staff lie?

I think it is time for Senator McCain to do some “straight talking” concerning this whole affair. I have a feeling that we have not heard the last of the lies from Senator McCain on this subject. The thing about lying that any good liar knows is that you just have to keep telling more lies to cover the first batch. The more Mr. McCain’s campaign tries to spin the lies and inconsistencies the more damning they appear. What is odd is that Mr. McCain wrote the letters after receiving 20,000 dollars from those on whose behalf he wrote the letters, but there was no quid pro quo? Not to worry Republicans the Senator has already gotten a bounce from Republicans following these stories, it appears that the Party of family values and morality obviously do not consider lying and bribery, not to mention adultery immoral. Why am I not surprised?


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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Is Obama Safe?

I happened to stop by and see my folks this weekend as is usually my custom and it is amazing how the conversation has changed in the last month. Originally we discussed the remote possibility of Senator Obama getting elected, then whether his agenda included black issues and would whites vote for him, and now as he is continuing to win a much more ominous question is being discussed. I wish I could say these conversations were only limited to my parents, but unfortunately they aren’t. The question and concern starting to arise among many blacks in America and maybe worldwide is the safety of Barack Obama.

The questions started arising during a visit to Dallas when it was reported the security detail assigned to the Senator were stopped from using metal detectors and searching bags and purses at a rally held by the Senator in which about 17,000 people attended. According to published reports the order came from the Secret Service and was considered by many of the Dallas Police as a security breach. Of course the rally went off without any violence, but it still highlights a growing fear among blacks, especially older blacks concerning the safety of Senator Obama as he gets closer to possibly becoming President of the United States.

But concern about Obama's safety transcends racial lines. He has white supporters who see him as an inspiring, youthful advocate of change in the mold of Robert F. Kennedy, and they are mindful of Kennedy's assassination just two months after King's.

Obama received Secret Service protection last May - the earliest ever for any presidential candidate. At the time, federal officials said they were not aware of any direct threats to Obama, but Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin - who was among those recommending the Secret Service deployment - acknowledged receiving information, some with racial overtones, that made him concerned for Obama's safety.

Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich, a former executive director of the Black Leadership Forum, noted that political leaders of any race face risks in a society where mass shootings and other violence by aggrieved or deranged assailants is all too common.[1]

It never fails whenever I go to the barbershop or a restaurant in my neighborhood the talk is about the possibility of harm coming to the Senator. Many times it is carried out in hushed tones as if the actual speaking of it out loud will in some eerie way cause it to happen, as if the forces that would choose to harm the Senator needed to hear the suggestion. It’s strange how the majority of concern is coming from older blacks and I wonder if that is because they have historical recollection of other former leaders being gunned down during a more restive period of our history. They have first hand knowledge of how the dreams and hopes of a people can be snuffed out in the blink of an eye.

Is Obama more at risk today than say political and social leaders of the past? Are the security forces better able and more willing to protect him? The truth of the matter is no one knows the minds and hearts of men. I do know that yes children there are things that go bump in the night, there are evil forces that lurk in this world. For us to deny them and hide under the bed may have worked as a child, but as the many shootings taking place in our society daily can attest we live in a very violent place. Are there people who are intimidated by the very real possibility of the first “real” black President? Of course there are. Would they be willing to prevent this through some act of violence? I think history has shown that this is a fact. I am glad to say though that I believe these people are in the minority. The reality though is simply this if anyone is willing to die in the process there is no one safe in this world that lives in the public eye.

The reason I don’t fear this scenario is not because I am naïve, on the contrary I am very aware of the evil that lies in men’s hearts, but I believe that if we allow our fears to prevent us from accomplishing our goals then we will never accomplish anything. I am a firm believer in fate and if it is meant for someone to die then nothing can prevent it. One thing is sure and that is no one leaves this world alive. Malcom X once said, “That if a man has not found anything he was willing to die for, then he wasn’t worth living.” Now is the time for this particular chapter to be played out in America and no one knows how it will end, but it must be played none the less.

I think Senator Obama has thought about and discussed these risks with his wife and family and come to the conclusion to trust fate and his belief in God. If God is who I believe Him to be, then whom shall I fear? There are those who have even suggested the insane notion of not voting for Obama to protect him from assassination. I believe this to be foolish and plays into the hands of those who would try to prevent his election. The men who rode around in hoods didn’t have to lynch and kill all the black men just enough to put fear in the others. The way we combat those forces of darkness is precisely by standing up and not cowering in fear. Is Obama safe? He is as safe as any one of us can be, his life is in the hands of God just like the rest of us.


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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

She Has Only Begun To Fight

Even if you are a Senator Clinton supporter her latest remarks about continuing the fight even after Texas and Ohio have got to be a little disconcerting. While it has been an historical and exciting primary season, I find it hard to believe that if after the Texas and Ohio primaries Senator Clinton has not been able to make up lost ground on Senator Obama that she would continue the fight. Though there have begun to be calls that Senator Clinton should abandon her quest for the Presidency I think that they may be premature. At this point the nomination is still as much hers as it is Senator Obama’s, but at some point I hope she recognizes that to continue to fight would be detrimental to the Party and the eventual nominee.

Even though Senator Obama has scored a series of wins and appears to be driving towards the nomination Senator Clinton still has a mathematical chance at regaining her footing and possibly winning. I know it seems unlikely and I personally believe that she will not win, the process must continue at least until Texas and possibly Ohio. There are a number of reasons why I think Senator Clinton will not win the nomination that I would like to discuss here.

The first is politics is a lot like sports, momentum plays a large part in the outcomes. Everyone wants to back a perceived winner. And also just as in sports, perception is often times the reality. Senator Obama is riding the wave of 11 straight victories and nothing succeeds like success. Senator Clinton has not won a contest since Super Tuesday, not only has she not won but has also been losing by double digits. Donors follow the winners, the more you win the easier it is to raise funds. Hillary’s donors have got to be feeling the heat right now and fundraising has got to be tough.

Indeed, Obama now appears to be at a tipping point where all the good news is his and all the bad news is hers. Beyond Clinton's string of recent losses, she has also replaced her campaign manager and deputy manager and loaned her campaign $5 million from personal funds.

Whether these developments turn Obama's campaign into a bandwagon in which Democratic voters start piling on -- the more historically normal pattern at this stage -- will determine whether Obama seizes front-runner status or the two keep slugging it out into the spring.

The second is the fact that we are even in this position so late in the primaries. No candidate has ever been afforded all of the tools given to Senator Clinton at the beginning of this process. Let’s face it no candidate had more money, name recognition, or organization than Hillary Clinton, the fact that she is still in a dog-fight with a one-term unknown Senator speaks to her organizational skills and potential electability. Even her supporters have to be concerned by the current turn of events. Who could have predicted this scenario at the end of last year? This thing was suppose to be over by New Hampshire. The biggest explanation for this meltdown can only be the decision making inside the Clinton campaign, which has to fall on the candidate and not the manager.

WASHINGTON — She had everything going for her. The most famous name in politics. A solid lead in the polls. A war chest of at least $133 million.

Yet Hillary Clinton now finds herself struggling for political survival, her once-firm grasp of the Democratic presidential nomination seemingly slipping away.

The third is concern of campaign fund mismanagement that is only now starting to surface. These concerns should have surfaced after the Senator’s senatorial re-election campaign which spent 30 million dollars on a campaign with only token opposition. The thing with campaign spending is that as long as you are winning no one really counts the cost, but as soon as you start losing every nickel is scrutinized. Right now Senator Clinton’s campaign spending is not only being scrutinized by the media and the blogosphere, but also her campaign donors and no one seems to like what they are finding. The campaign’s free-wheeling spending is causing alarm and now that the news has gotten out that the Senator had to loan her own campaign 5 million dollars the speculation is going through the roof.

If Senator Clinton had won the nomination as expected, would we be discussing her campaign spending now? I seriously doubt it. I think that because the Senator did not win as expected people are now looking for reasons to abandon her campaign and this is as good an excuse as any. The American public, media, and donors are fickle. One day you’re riding high and the next day you’re yesterday’s news. If Senator Clinton is not able to win Texas by double digits, I think it would be incumbent on her to bow out for the good of the Party. We will get to see if her own personal ambition is more important than the Party. If that proves to be the case, then I think the public, including a lot of her supporters will turn against her for good.

WASHINGTON — She had everything going for her. The most famous name in politics. A solid lead in the polls. A war chest of at least $133 million.

Yet Hillary Clinton now finds herself struggling for political survival, her once-firm grasp of the Democratic presidential nomination seemingly slipping away.


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The African Farewell Tour

What do you do when you’re the President of the most powerful nation on earth and your poll numbers hit 19%? Road trip! You run off to Africa; a continent long neglected and suffering with poverty and AIDs and act like the great white Santa Claus delivering good cheer and fat checks. In an effort to create a legacy and build some good will, it seems the Bushies decided that the best way to build large enthusiastic crowds would be to go to the place with the greatest need. Mr. Bush would have made a greater impact if he had went to some inner-city neighborhoods handing out all of that aid money. It is not that Africa is not worthy or in desperate need of the aid, but it seems odd that the same President that resisted taking action in the Darfur region of Sudan is now interested in Africa?

In a shameful display of irresponsibility, the leaders of key organizations—the U.N., NATO, the EU, and the AU—as well as of major countries like the U.S., France, and Britain have all remarked upon the horrors that have befallen Darfur, but then done nothing to stop the killing. The time for action is now.

If President Bush is serious about ending the genocide, he will have to do more than acquiesce in a role for the ICC. He will have to call these key leaders to Washington, lock them in a room, and not let them out until they have decided on a course of action. Only then will the ICC referral have real meaning.

So the same President who watched the AIDs epidemic sweep across Africa, ruthless dictators murder their own citizens, and genocide now wants to tour Africa like some liberating hero. This liberator who has laid the ground work for a new strategic initiative that could put permanent US bases in Africa to counter Chinese influence and protect our “interests”. Hum, must be some valuable raw materials in need of protection from their native populations. I guess since his legislative agenda is laying around smoldering somewhere maybe it is time to do some of the things he was too busy to do earlier in his Presidency, like try being a statesman and not a war mongering chicken-hawk. Mr. Bush has given a new meaning to the word lame-duck. Whatever happen to all that political capital from 1984?

I can hardly wait to see how the McCain campaign is planning to use a President with a 19% approval rating. Maybe they can have him campaign in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia where I think he still enjoys a high approval rating. I am sure there are small areas in the US where the President enjoys some approval. My guess is that they will need him to shore up McCain’s cred with the social conservatives, he has already gotten a big boost from the recent furor over the NY Times story. However he will need George W. for the general election, despite his low ratings Bush still enjoys surprising support among the social wing of the Party. Will he be able to transfer that support to McCain still remains to be seen.

Unfortunately for W. it is going to take a lot more than a tour of Africa handing out aid checks to rehabilitate his legacy in the world. There have been times in his Presidency when he has been viewed by the world as second only to bin Laden himself as the most dangerous man on earth. Not the list you want the so-called leader of the free world to be on, but when you promote war and wanton destruction what can you expect. Will this trip help the world to forget Iraq? I doubt it, if anything the talk of the Africom project will only go to heighten suspicions.

George Bush is trying to end his Presidency the way it began with his infamous “compassionate conservatism”. There is only one small problem the seven and a half years in between have provided us with a war with no end in sight, a weaker Constitution, and a major recession. No amount of deodorant can get rid of the stench that will be the Bush legacy. The problem with these efforts on the part of the President is that they are seven years too late, maybe if he had been more interested in fighting poverty and disease in the world more than spreading violence he wouldn’t have needed to try to buy a piece of history.

COTONOU, Benin -- President Bush began a five-country journey through Africa on Saturday saying that U.S. aid to the continent comes with "great compassion."

On his trip, Bush is trying to show that the United States has a moral imperative as well as economic, political and national security interests in fighting poverty, disease and corruption across the continent.


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Monday, February 25, 2008

Why Do We Fear Hope?

In this country many of us equate strength with the lack of emotion. The strong one is the one who can endure life without feeling. The weak one is the one who shows their emotions and thus are banished to a life of disappointment and tragedy. With the introduction of the political narrative of Barack Obama there has been a lot of talk about the word hope. I don’t ever recall this word being dissected to the degree that it has been during his unlikely run towards the White House. One would believe that no other politician has ever invoked the word in an election before. So what makes it so different today than say in 1992, when a young upstart politician challenged the status quo?

For his part, Bill Clinton organized his campaign around another of the oldest and most powerful themes in electoral politics: change. As a youth, Clinton had once met President John F. Kennedy, and in his own campaign 30 years later, much of his rhetoric challenging Americans to accept change consciously echoed that of Kennedy in his 1960 campaign.[1]

Or what about in 1960, when another youthful hope monger spoke so eloquently of hope for a new world while accepting the oath of office for President of the United States:

Now the trumpet summons us again -- not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need -- not as a call to battle, though embattled we are -- but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation,"² a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.[2]

So if it isn’t that the concept of hope is something new to elections, what can it be? I remember being a child and towards the end of November I would be filled with hope of the coming season. I wish I could say it was because I looked forward to exercising the true “spirit of the season” and all the good will towards my fellow man stuff, but that wasn’t what filled me with joy. I would begin to have hopes of the new toys that I looked forward to receiving for Christmas. I would watch in excitement at all the commercials of the coming new and latest toys and I would mentally create these lists of must have gadgets that I was sure to see under the tree on Christmas morning.

There was just one small problem, my father was a selfish man who found it difficult to spoil his children. So for many years there was the promise and hope for all of these things only to be followed on Christmas morning by the stark reality that was less than I had hoped for. You see as a child I could not understand or accept that my father was the man that he was, you see I wanted him to be like me or who I thought I was. The truth was that he could only be the man he was, not who I so desperately wanted and maybe needed him to be. I would awaken on Christmas morning to small tokens and I would end up crying later. After a while, my hopes began to lessen year by year until they were replaced with the gradual numbing of reality. The reality that no matter how much I hoped there was always going to be disappointment. In the end, I just stopped hoping and came to accept the cruelty of life.

As my life continued, I came to the conclusion that my problem in the first place was that I had dared to hope, that I had dared to believe in anything other than myself. I decided that from that point on that emotions were my problem, I would no longer allow anyone the ability to control my emotions. In fact I would bury them, my hero became Spock from Star Trek because he had no emotions. For many years I lived as emotionless as I could. But after two broken marriages, addiction, and suicidal moments I realized the that the strength I thought I had found in having no emotions was actually my downfall and my weakness. What I learned was that true strength and power does not belong to the cynic or the emotionless, but to those who are willing to express their emotions and become vulnerable to disappointment and hurt. True courage is not to never be afraid, but to be afraid and go on anyway.

Barack Obama is not God or a second coming of Jesus and his supporters do not believe this despite the cult analogies. He is simply a man who dares us to believe beyond ourselves. He is not promising to solve all of our problems or that the Government can. What he is offering us is a chance to put behind us many of the things that currently divide us and to focus on the many more things that unite us. After all what really can one man, even the President of the United States do? Over the last few decades we have seen what the politics of division and win at all costs has wrought, a country so divided we are on the verge of breaking. There are many who say that the answer is to continue as we have, that the only way to succeed is to beat the other side to a pulp. Today we are refighting the Civil War only class has replaced slavery. Will it take a bloody conflict to resolve our differences? I don’t know. There are many who are placing their hopes and aspirations on him and those people will be disappointed, because he can do nothing against those forces without our help and our actions.

What I do know is this, if we are able to appeal to the common good in all of us shouldn’t we to avoid that bloody conflict? Make no mistake about it if we do not enlist their help to change this country are we prepared to fight to take it? If Barack Obama’s hope fails it won’t be because he failed, it will be because we failed. If it is to succeed it will require many of us to overcome our cynicism and partisanship to come together for the greater good. The reason he does so well among the young is because they are not as jaded as their older counterparts, they still believe in change. The question now becomes can we transfer that hope into action or will we sit and wait for the disappointment so we can say, “See, I told you so”. It is no longer enough to vote, the last midterm election should have shown us that. We must follow up those votes with action. Just as with any seismic change in America, it must be bottom up, not top down. Our biggest fear is not that we are doomed, our biggest fear is that our hero will be bested; that the things we cherish love, hope, justice, and kindness to our fellowman will not win in the end.


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Friday, February 22, 2008

Why I Don’t Like Mike

I have to admit it when it comes to basketball, I love Michael Jordan. I thought he was the greatest player in the history of the game. Of course with sports, you’re only as good as your last game and someone will come along and eclipse Mike. As much as I enjoyed watching Mike with the ball, I am beginning to not like Mike the businessman. I have always been concerned about the fact that he markets his $200 sneakers to kids who could probably use that money for more important priorities or the fact that his marketing campaign led to the beatings and untimely deaths of some his more unfortunate young customers. But the latest campaign has caused me more concern than the previous ones and I can no longer remain silent.

As a person I have never been particularly impressed with Mr. Jordan. I have always felt that in order to maintain his marketability he has avoided issues he could have brought his enormous star power to bear on and had some impact. This of course is his business and is a place where we differ in philosophies. In his latest ad campaign to sell more of these over-priced sneakers, Mr. Jordan is telling the youth that they to can become legendary. In the ad Mr. Jordan is doing a voice-over as faces of current and maybe future athletic stars are being shown. In his narration Mr. Jordan is saying that if you look into their eyes you can see their determination and their drive to be the best and of course part of that drive will include a pair of his sneakers. Here is where I take issue with this ad, it is continuing a narrative young black men can no longer continue to aspire to. The fairytale road to riches through athletics for black youth must be halted. There was a time in America when it was a necessary avenue, because there were so few other options for blacks in our society. Today that is no longer the case and yet the myth continues at the expense of our youth.

A recent survey by the Center for the Study of Sport in Society found that two-thirds of African American males between the ages of 13 and 18 believe that they can earn a living playing professional sports (more than double the proportion of young white males who hold such beliefs). Moreover, African American parents were four times more likely than white parents to believe that their sons are destined for careers as professional athletes.

Second, while the odds of African American males making it as professional athletes are more favorable than is the case for whites (about 1 in 3,500 African American male high school athletes, compared to 1 in 10,000 white male high school athletes) these odds remain slim. Of the 40,000 or so African Americans boys who play high school basketball, only 35 will make the NBA and only 7 will be starters. Referring to the low odds for young African Americans, Harry Edwards, an African American sociologist specializing in the sociology of sport, said with a bit of hyperbole: “Statistically, you have a better chance of getting hit by a meteorite in the next ten years than getting work as an athlete.”

So they have a better chance of getting hit with a meteorite, or how about a better chance of ending up in prison or shot dead than making it as a professional athlete or becoming legendary. Do these facts dissuade Mr. Jordan and his friends at Nike? Of course not, there goal is to sell sneakers to kids who number one can’t afford them and number two most who buy them don’t even play a sport. The majority of kids I see wearing Jordan sneakers don’t even play sports. I play basketball if I can three times a week and have played for more than 40 years, I have never paid more than $60 for a pair of sneakers, this includes college and semi-pro summer leagues. I understand today that times are different and sneakers for some kids are a status symbol, but to those kids where this is the case they are the ones least able to afford the symbol. I don’t have a problem with kids wanting to live their dream of becoming a professional athlete, I’ve played a game for over 40 years. The problem is that it is unrealistic and against the odds for most of these kids. Why do we not have any ads for kids becoming legendary doctors, engineers, or CEO of Jumpman?

The reason is simple, these people don’t wear $200 sneakers. We continue to reinforce the get rich quick mentality to minority children. No need to study or work hard you can just become the next Lebron or 50 cent. Of course neglecting to mention that for many of them the closest they’ll ever come to either one of them is by buying a jersey or a cd. I’m waiting to see the ad campaign that promotes the realistic circumstances of our youth and our communities. Our youth don’t need anymore instruction on how to “be like Mike” the ballplayer, they need instruction on how to be like Mike the entrepreneur. Where are the commercials espousing the virtues of higher education not as a member of a sports team, but as a member of an academic team? Where is the narrative of determined kids striving not to get a pair of shoes named after them but a disease or a cure, a business, or a law firm?

With the success of Barack Obama there is no longer the need to settle and continue to reinforce the stereotypical roles for black youth. Black youth are graduating high school at a 50% rate, that’s right high school! We don’t need more sneakers, we need more educators and real role models who are not looking to exploit them to sell another $200 pair of sneakers.


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Thursday, February 21, 2008

McCain: The Worst Panderer?

I recently read a piece by the NY Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof about the pandering abilities of John McCain. The soft-sell and false narrative of John McCain continues to be pursued by writers and pundits and pushed out to unsuspecting readers and listeners. According to Mr. Kristof, because John McCain has so much integrity and honesty he is incapable of pandering with any degree of dexterity in comparison to other politicians. It seems the Straight-Talk- Express has run over another pedestrian on the road to the White House. The truth is that Senator McCain has spoken against his Party on some issues, but let’s not get carried away these were not issues of visionary proportions. Let’s examine the issues that Mr. Kristof believes Senator McCain deserves special merit for disagreeing with his Party for.

The issues that Mr. Kristof mentions in his piece are the following: whether we should
torture prisoners, lynch immigrants, and racism. The fact that Senator McCain would choose to disagree with his Party on these issues says as much about “his Party” as it does about Senator McCain. Are we now to applaud a member of the Klan who refused to take part in a lynching but continues his membership in the organization? To consider Senator McCain a maverick for choosing to take such enlightened stances on these issues in and of itself is remarkable, but in order to shore up his cred with the less enlightened of his Party and of the human race, he has now fudged on his torture and immigration stances. So I am left to wonder where is this man of honor and integrity?

His most famous pander came in 2000, when, after earlier denouncing the Confederate flag as a “symbol of racism,” he embraced it as “a symbol of heritage.” To his credit, Mr. McCain later acknowledged, “I feared that if I answered honestly I could not win the South Carolina primary, so I chose to compromise my principles.”

In short, Mr. McCain truly has principles that he bends or breaks out of desperation and with distaste. That’s preferable to politicians who are congenital invertebrates.

I disagree with Mr. McCain on Iraq, taxes, abortion and almost every other major issue. He has a nasty temper, which isn’t ideal for the hand holding a nuclear trigger. For a man running partly on biography, he treated his first wife, Carol, poorly. And one of the meanest put-downs in modern political history was a savage joke that Mr. McCain publicly related about Chelsea Clinton when she was 18 years old; it was inexcusable.

So according to Mr. Kristof, because Senator McCain compromises his principles with such great agony he should be exalted over other compromisers. Have we gotten to the place where we expect so little of our elected officials? Today we don’t expect them to stand on their principles, we only expect them to surrender them with anguish. What ever happened to expecting and electing leaders who refuse to surrender their principles? I’m sorry, I am all for compromise and the art of the deal, I am not so idealistic to believe that in politics one agenda will be completely accepted at the exclusion of all others. But in my opinion there are some principles that are non-negotiable; torture is not an option, racial intolerance and bigotry the same. The strange thing about this piece is that Mr. Kristof himself seems to defeat the purpose of it being written and yet as with the myth of McCain he continues to a conclusion that does not merit the facts. How can one man be seen by so many in such disregard to the facts?

The fact is that John McCain is a panderer and as he attempts to increase his support among the social conservatives it will become more obvious. No matter how odious it may appear to the casual observer pandering is still pandering and in the case of Senator McCain it is even worse because of the issues involved and his own history. It will be extremely difficult to pander to a Party base that is filled with intolerance and yet present yourself as being something different. There are those in the Democratic Party who fear McCain, I don’t see it. Senator McCain represents all that this election is revolting against. He represents the Party of old white men and the continuation of Bush policies, if we choose that then I guess we are not the country we thought we were. I believe that the American public is looking for a change and no amount of political hyperbole is going to stop it. Senator McCain represents the past and no matter how hard they try to present him as the future, it can’t be done. There is not enough makeup left in the case to make this a silk purse.


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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Michelle Obama's Gaffe?

The two biggest problems I have with the reactions to Michelle Obama’s heartfelt comment about her finally having something to be really proud of this country about is this. We eviscerate candidates and campaigns for their scripted syncopated messages saying we want honesty and real emotions. Then we crucify those who would give it to us. America once again proves that “You can’t handle the truth.” I would expect the Republicans, pundits, talking heads, and the America; love it or leave it crowd to resort to knee-jerk reactions, but I find it very telling that Democrats and so-called Progressives are joining their ranks in condemning her remarks. The second problem is that it shows how we have allowed the Republican “fear factor” to color our perspective about who we are and what we have become. The same fraudulent media that can swift-boat a decorated war hero into a lying coward while at the same time turning a lying draft-dodging Reservist into a hero strikes fear in the hearts of many.

Any American over the age of 40 whether they be black or white should if they are honest be able to attest to the truthfulness of Michelle Obama’s statement. Forty years ago there were images being played out on television screens across America of peaceful black demonstrators being attacked by police dogs, high pressure water hoses and brutal police just for wanting to exercise their basic rights. Who in their right mind back then would have envisioned that today one of the major Parties is on the verge of nominating a black man for President? How many among us today thought that a black man could draw the cross-section of support that Barack Obama has been able to put together prior to this election? I mean come on people, the guy won Idaho. Forty years ago America’s urban centers and rural counties were ablaze with rage following the slaying of one of America’s greatest heroes, who by the way was long on rhetoric but yet was able to move a nation to confront it’s racist past.

Forty years ago college campuses were exploding with the calls for change to end a divisive war that was killing and maiming a generation; once again for the cause of spreading democracy at the end of a gun. Forty years ago a young man promising change and a new vision of America was gunned down and a fractious Democratic Party was left to sort out the pieces in Chicago amid chaos and smoke filled rooms. To those too young to remember these things or may not have lived through them they may seem ancient, but to those who were there for us to deny the validity of Michelle Obama’s statement is to deny ourselves. We look back over the last 40 years and I would ask anyone to tell me a prouder moment in America than the one we stand at today, with all of its historic significance. Not only have we been presented with the choice for the first time ever of a viable black candidate, but also of a woman.

We as a nation can not allow the right-wing nuts to minimize this moment or to marginalize it. The time has come to put an end to the false patriotism of either you are with us or against us, as if this were some western movie and the choices were as simple as the guys in white hats or black ones. I can love someone or love a nation and still be able to point out their flaws. The real act of love is not to ignore their flaws or to pretend they don’t have any, but to love them all the more in spite of them. It is precisely this myth of infallibility that keeps us repeating the same mistakes over and over again as well as keeps us tied to the ones we have already made. This fear of acknowledging our failings must be overcome if we are to become a greater nation. For one to acknowledge their mistakes is not a sign of weakness, but in fact is a sign of strength and a first step of growth and change.

I suspect we haven’t seen the last of this episode if Barack Obama goes on to win the nomination. The wife of Senator McCain has already weighed in saying, “that she has and always will be proud of her country.” Well given the fact that she was raised an only child to affluent parents and enjoyed the best that this country had to offer I can understand why she is so proud of America, but for those of us not quite as fortunate as Cindy McCain we have seen our share of moments when America was not looking or acting so worthy of pride. To those of us who grew up poor, black, or brown we can understand Michelle Obama’s feelings of pride and elation. Because while Cindy McCain was getting diversion for her addiction and drug stealing, many of us have had fathers, brothers, and sisters who were and are serving felony prison sentences for a lot less. I guess pride is like everything else in this world, it just depends on your perspective.

As a middle-aged black man, I can say that I have never been more proud of this country than I am now. The fact is that the number of whites who are willing to vote for Barack Obama is far more than I would have guessed in my wildest dreams fills me with pride and if this is wrong to say then who really is being dishonest? Michelle Obama and me or those living in a drug induced state of, “
I can’t say I have made any mistakes.”

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Why Do We Hate Poor People?

Why is it that when we encounter poor or homeless people they make us cringe? Why do we want to make them disappear into shelters or remove them out of our sights? Since the Reagan revolution we have instead of being at war against poverty, we have been at war with poor people. They litter our streets like so many abandoned cars at a salvage yard. Why has it been so easy to sell the false narrative that people are poor by choice and that if they would just work harder they wouldn’t be poor? I think that our reactions to the poor says more about who we are than who they are. Let’s face it there have been poor people throughout recorded history, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is not that there are poor people, but that there are poor people we could help and don’t.

The reason I think we hate poor people is that rather than reminding of us of the blessings we have received, they instead remind us of our vulnerabilities and our insecurities. They remind so many of us that we are only one missed paycheck or one serious health issue away from their lot and it scares the hell out of us. We need so badly to believe that this could never happen to us, that we are so insulated from them and their fate that it could never be our fate. When the reality is too frightening to consider we create these illusions to placate ourselves. The greatest illusion is that we live in a society that if anyone is willing to work hard enough they can overcome the poverty of their birth. We regale ourselves with these fables of rags to riches, never considering the reality of these tales. The reality is a far cry from the false narratives being maintained by those who would keep us ignorant of the truth.

We are constantly fed the fairy-tale of the poor kid who signs a million-dollar sports contract, the million-dollar recording contract, or the Ivy League scholarship. And for those who have desires that steer towards more iniquitous pursuits we even have the “gangster” or drug dealer chronicles. In other words there is money and wealth to be had by all except the most slothful of our fellow citizens. How prevalent are these scenarios in modern America? The truth is that very little has changed for poor people, the majority of children born into poverty will remain in poverty. How can they not? They are provided with in many cases inferior homes, schools, and sometimes parents. The deck is stacked against them from the moment they take their first breath.

Sure we occasionally give a few dollars here and there with moral superiority and discuss how unfortunate those people are. All the while hoping they would just disappear and not remind us of how tenuous our hold on the American Dream is. Not only do they remind us of our perilous situations they also remind us of our conspicuous consumption and how truly far we have bought and sold the lie of more is better. The truth of this is in the fact that many of us believe that today’s poor are not really poor. We look at poverty in the third world and convince ourselves that those are truly poor people, the ones here are just whiners.

Robert Rector, a Senior Fellow at Heritage and a leading force behind welfare reform, similarly argued that federal studies should highlight the consumption—rather than income—of impoverished households. Many poor families do not record 'gray area' earnings because the federal wage threshold provides a disincentive to report joint income or informal earnings. Also, purchasing power varies across metropolitan, suburban, and rural communities. Rector's study, which utilizes data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, demonstrates that many allegedly impoverished households live in decent-to-comfortable conditions, making poverty somewhat different from John Edwards' "terrible condition struggling against incredible poverty."

Rector's report shows that the "typical," median poor household owns a car, air-conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a washer and dryer, a microwave, two color televisions, cable or satellite television, a vcr or dvd player, and a stereo. The typical poor family's house is in good repair and the family is able to afford both food and medical care throughout the year.

With living standards such as these, poverty in America may actually be an enviable state compared to living standards in other nations. According to the Census Bureau, 15.2% of immigrants live in poverty, whereas only 11.9% of natives are below the poverty threshold. Rector claims that 1 in 10 of immigrants in poverty is likely an illegal immigrant, but estimates remain vague; the U.S. census declines to ask immigrant responders whether they have documentation.

So being poor in America is an enviable state? The Bible says, “Blessed is the poor”. How many of us actually drive by a poor neighborhood or a homeless person and say, “Boy, those folks are really lucky”? I wonder if the author of that report is willing to exchange places with one of these lucky poor people? The reason we need to deny their pain and hopelessness is so we can deny our greed. If poor people aren’t really poor, then I am not actually consuming too much. The world is made up of balances, there is only so many of anything. In order for someone to have more, someone has to have less. We assuage our guilt at ignoring their plight by criminalizing them or demonizing them. We don’t want them around us or bothering us. The thing I don’t like about poor people is that they are so needy. They are always asking for stuff.

We hate them because of what they tell us about ourselves and our lives. How we can live in a country that thinks nothing of spending over 700 billion for wars and war machinery, billions in corporate welfare, and every year we cut programs to help the poor. They don’t need early childhood intervention, better schools, or financial assistance. What they need is a swift kick in the butt to get them motivated. It’s no wonder that children born poor suffer from stress related brain trauma. Despite popular opinion being poor even as a child is stressful. We bombard the airwaves with these images of consumption, we tell our children you are not cool, hip, or anybody if you don’t wear these shoes, these clothes, or have these things. Then we act surprised by their actions to get them and call them animals and lock them up. And we’re the civilized ones. There, but for the grace of God, goes I.


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A Country of Laws

Despite the passage of three new laws by the Iraqi Parliament, Iraq still remains a very divided place and now that our brilliant strategy of arming both parties in the civil conflict is about to explode in our faces, it is about to become a very dangerous place again. As our national history and the recorded history of many other countries can attest, nations are more than just laws. Nations are people, people with feelings and memories. These feelings and memories are not always subject to the ways of legal justice and have a way of causing people to implement laws in some unexpected ways. The Iraqi people are many years from national reconciliation and we are not even sure that they want it, the more we ride herd over the process and inject our own sensibilities into the process the more we prolong the day of reckoning.

Several legislators emphasized after the voting on Wednesday that achieving true sectarian reconciliation was far more complex than simply passing a law.

“Reconciliation will hang on more than a law, it needs political will,” said Mithal al-Alusi, a Sunni legislator. “I believe there is no political will to achieve reconciliation. The law of amnesty is good, but not enough.”

The Iraqi government has no incentive to reconcile so long as we continue to play powerbroker not only in Iraq but in the region as a whole. As long as we continue to provide political coverage and cannon fodder the deeply held sectarian rifts will continue to acerbate under the surface. You cannot force people to like one another or to respect one another, that has to come from a common desire and goal for a people. I do not see that commonness of purpose for the Iraqis at this time.

While the laws put in place can lay the groundwork for change or reconciliation, they still require the trust of the people that they will be enforced in an equitable manner. There has to be an underlying trust within the people to submit to the laws on the books. Can we say that the Iraqis have this underlying trust in each other? I doubt it, we can’t even say with confidence that we have it in each other. Laws are merely the framework, the skeleton that holds the society together. If the people do not have a faith in those executing the laws, there can be no peace or any justice.

An example of this would be the Amnesty Law recently passed as part of the three new laws from the Iraqi Parliament, there are tens of thousands, mostly Sunnis that are being held without charges. The Amnesty Law was suppose to help ease the over-crowding and the appearance of revenge by the Shias, the problem of course is in the details. While the central government may have one definition of who the law would affect, you still have local and provincial officials who may have a different interpretation. Because of the central governments lack of any real power of enforcement the locals will still have the last word. How many of those tens of thousands of prisoners are there due to some local vendetta? The sheer numbers make it next to impossible to fully investigate each individual case, thus leaving many to rot in the jails and prisons of Iraq.

Thanks to our “surge” strategy we have increased the numbers of imprisoned to well past the breaking point. It seems we have not only exported democracy, but also our penchant for locking people up. It is also a documented fact that many of the Sunni detainees have been tortured and killed by their Shia guards. The Amnesty Law will do nothing to correct these injustices and only serves to reinforce in the mind of the minorities in Iraq their need to continue to fight the majority’s dominance.

While the passage of these laws will provide political cover for the Republicans and war mongers in America they will actually produce little in the way of reconciliation in Iraq. The current administration and the Bush-lite nominee waiting in the wings will state that this is a good sign that the Iraqi’s are making progress on the “benchmarks”, the true test is not in the laws we are forcing them to enact to meet our own political agendas, but in the trust created and developed by the opposing parties. This trust cannot be legislated or thrust upon them, but must be developed over time. If Iraq remains a sovereign nation in its current form, it will be up to the Iraqis to make this happen. It will not be at the behest of an occupying army, the history of the colonial powers should make this fact abundantly clear. The nations that they fashioned for their political expediency decades ago are still suffering from the tribal and secular fragmentation of trying to create nations from groups who do not share a national identity.

The war in Iraq will continue to define not Iraq’s but our national identity for years to come. Make no mistake about it the war in Iraq was not and is not about al Qaeda or terrorists, it is about one nation imposing its will over another nation. We can decorate that fact with the bouquet of spreading democracy and freedom, but the stench of imperialism will not be easily covered. How can a nation that violated international law now claim a moral superiority to bring law to the lawless? One must first remove the log that is in one’s own eye before trying to remove the splinter in another’s eye. Are there times when compassion and the acts of blood thirsty tyrants require action? Of course there are, we are confronted with them daily in Darfur, in Bosnia, and Rwanda. Iraq however was not one of them.


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Monday, February 18, 2008

Is Maureen Dowd Objective?

My question is this? Is Maureen Dowd the columnist from the NY Times being objective in her criticisms of Hillary Clinton? In the past few weeks it appears that she is dismantling the Clinton campaign on a number of issues, from feminism to Hillary’s ability to lead. While her criticisms may be accurate many find them inappropriate and an act of betrayal to the cause of feminism. I don’t feel that she has an obligation to support Hillary because she is a woman or that she should not be allowed to criticize her campaign, but my problem is that she is doing it under the guise of impartiality. My belief is that she supports the campaign of Barack Obama and so her criticisms of Hillary are no more impartial that any other candidate’s supporter. By not couching her criticisms in the fact that she does support Obama it is in fact bringing criticism to herself.

While I think her criticisms are insightful and to some helpful, they do her readers a disservice because they appear to be anything but objective. They remind me of the same tactic being used by her colleague, Paul Krugman another columnist for the NY Times and his criticisms of Obama. It seems clear to me that Mr. Krugman prefers Hillary to Obama on a number of issues, but again by lodging these criticisms in the cloak of impartiality they do a disservice to the readers. Everyone in this election is allowed a choice in who they feel will best serve their Party and the nation and I would never begrudge anyone that right, but I think when you are writing opinion pieces that are not impartial you owe it to your readers to provide a disclaimer. If you don’t provide one then your criticism smacks of dishonesty.

After giving up drinking and becoming Texas governor, W. had supposedly changed from an arrogant, obdurate, Daddy-competing loser to a genial, bipartisan, mature winner. As it turned out, a total makeover is not possible after 40.

Hillary’s narrative echoes W.’s: After the scalding partisanship of the ’90s, she became a senator and turned the other cheek, working on legislation with Republicans who had pursued the impeachment case against her husband. She has supposedly learned from her White House mistakes on health care, Travelgate and legal issues, from her battles with the right and the press. She knows now that being obstructionist and secretive don’t work.

An appealing arc, but is it true? Her campaign shake-up showed that she continues to rank loyalty and secrecy above competence and ingenuity. She is still so guarded that she began answering questions from the press and voters only after she lost Iowa.

All of us have known big shots who keep a check on their real feelings and dark tendencies until they get the top job. Then they throw off the restraints and revert to their worst instincts, bullying others and insulating themselves with sycophants.

Hillary could be ready on Day 1 — to make up her Enemies List and banish Overkill Bill to a cubbyhole in the Old Executive Office Building. But it’s Day 2 that I’m really worried about.

I believe Ms. Dowd raises legitimate concerns in this piece and in her comparisons between the lessons of George W. and Hillary, but I fail to see the objectivity in her writing. If Ms. Dowd wants to point out the demons of the Clintons and the pitfalls to a return to their governance she of course has every right to do so, but impartiality demands an equal disclosure of possible Obama demons. While we would all like to think that our candidates are free from sin, the truth of the matter is that our choices are all human. And because they are human our choices are all flawed to some degree. Hence the importance of disclosure, if one continues to pronounce objectivity and yet only points out the flaws on one side, where then is the impartiality?

My point I guess is this, I have no problem with columnists supporting one candidate’s platform or agenda over another’s, but if you do so and continue to write candidate critiques it is incumbent upon you to report that decision to your readers in the interest of fairness. I do not think it is fair for Ms. Dowd to continue to criticize Hillary without disclosing her support for Obama or whatever candidate she supports. So often we read pieces from columnists pretending to be objective when in truth they are being anything but. One of the positives of the blogosphere is that there is very little pretense of this false impartiality, you know who supports whom. Because of this “truth in advertising” it makes it more difficult to accept the hypocrisy of the MSM. I don’t know if it is the policy of the publications to not allow the columnists to endorse candidates, but it seems to be more of a hindrance than a help to the readers.


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Republican Strategy 2008

As soon as the Republicans can get Mike Huckabee out of the race the sooner they can begin to institute the new/old strategies for 2008. The Republican strategies will rely on two main points for the general election. The first will be the nation at war narrative that will require a national hero and security hawk to navigate this dangerous world we now find ourselves in. The country will need his experience and understanding of war to succeed in the global struggle against the Islamo-fascist terrorists that hate us for our freedoms. The second will be a large cash give-away in an effort to buy the election. I am not talking about the tax rebate or stimulus package, no I am referring to the recently unveiled budget of George W. Let’s look at both of these strategies and their appeal to voters in November.

The first is the same strategy George W. used to beat John Kerry in 2004. The narrative was that a real war hero was not qualified to lead the country as well as a National Guard deserter and a chicken-hawk, only George W. could lead the country during these dangerous times. Well, now they have their own war hero to continue the disastrous war in Iraq. I guess because an ex-POW says we should stay in Iraq then that concludes anymore discussion on the subject. The Rovian model of the Republican majority is based in this nation at war scenario, as long as the Republicans can continue to use the scare and fear tactics that they have refined in the two past elections they can maintain a majority. As the election approaches the threat level is already being elevated in the MSM and the Defense Department. During the summer and into the fall there will be report after report of the growing capabilities of al Qaeda and their ongoing plans to attack America. Of course these reports will be attributed to unnamed administration and defense spokespeople so they can never be checked out. The MSM will report and give them the weight of confirmed intelligence. I would not be surprised if the threat level is not elevated to its highest state in say four years.

Beginning with Mitt Romney, who withdrew from the race on Thursday, warning that he would not abet “the surrender to terror,” Republicans, including Mr. McCain and Vice President Dick Cheney, have warned darkly that the Democrats were ill-suited and ill-equipped to protect the nation, the same theme that Mr. Bush struck in his successful 2004 re-election campaign.

“I guarantee you this: If we had announced a date for withdrawal from Iraq and withdrawn troops the way that Senator Obama and Senator Clinton want to do, Al Qaeda would be celebrating that they had defeated the United States of America and that we surrendered,” Mr. McCain said at a rally in Wichita. “I will never surrender.”

The war supporters are all lining up to chime in with their predictions of an all-out al Qaeda invasion if we do not stay the course and elect John McCain. Flush from their victory in Iraq we will have embolden them to once again attack America sending in waves of terrorist from across the Mexican border. They may look like Mexicans, but don’t be fooled they are terrorists in disguise. This will also help to sell the much needed security fence along the Mexican border. Brilliant

The second leg of their strategy will be the government give-a-ways that are stuffed into the
3.1 trillion dollar budget submitted by Bush. The President, a staunch critic of Congressional earmarks has sent a budget to Capitol Hill that is teeming with them. However in Bush speak an earmark is not an earmark if the President submits them. In many cases expenditures that Bush once called earmarks have turned up in his budget. Bush is once again showing us that budget constraints mean nothing to him and his fellow “fiscal conservatives”, they will continue to spend money in spite of any recession or depression the economy may be experiencing. The Republicans can now promote McCain as a true fiscal conservative who will put an end to the waste in Washington, of course they will fail to mention that much of that waste occurred during a two-term Republican administration.

Thus, for example, the president requested $330 million to deal with plant pests like the emerald ash borer, the light brown apple moth and the sirex woodwasp. He sought $800,000 for the Neosho National Fish Hatchery in Missouri and $1.5 million for a waterway named in honor of former Senator J. Bennett Johnston, a Louisiana Democrat.

At the same time, Mr. Bush requested $894,000 for an air traffic control tower in Kalamazoo, Mich.; $12 million for a parachute repair shop at the American air base in Aviano, Italy; and $6.5 million for research in Wyoming on the “fundamental properties of asphalt.”

He sought $3 million for a forest conservation project in Minnesota, $2.1 million for a neutrino detector at the South Pole and $28 million for General Electric and Siemens to do research on hydrogen-fuel turbines.

Along with the built-in earmarks, the budget also includes 500 billion for defense along with an additional 200 billion to continue the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This translates to a 62% increase in defense spending under Bush. With this increased defense spending is America any safer Are our military forces stronger? According to the Pentagon they are just the opposite, our forces are over-spent and in terrible need of repair. But this will not stop the war mongers from pressing the case for more war and more spending. Who says a nation has to sacrifice during war times? Obviously not anyone familiar with the today’s Republicans.


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Friday, February 15, 2008

Everybody Loves A Winner

I have to apologize, I have had the flu all week so I have not been able to produce the level of content that I am accustomed to. I was also laid-off from my job at H&R Block as the company and new majority stock holder works to increase their stock price and anyone familiar with Wall Street knows the quickest way to increase stock price is to cut labor costs. You will have to forgive me if my mind is not as sharp as usual, this latest strain of the flu has left my mind a little foggy. I had wanted to wait and write about this story after I began to feel better, but this story could not wait since it has large implications in the Democratic nominating process.

I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to approach this story. I didn’t know if I wanted to borrow a line from my friend the “field negro” and frame it in terms of a bunch of old “house negroes” finally deciding to take a ride on the underground railroad and escape the plantation mentality. Or to explore the larger issue which is that Hillary’s super delegate count is about to see an erosion from Party leaders who now view Obama as not only viable, but possibly their best chance in November. What we are witnessing is the great American past-time of everybody loves a winner. As Senator Obama continues to win his campaign is projecting an aura of inevitability, oh we all remember that right? This was the aura the Clinton campaign struggled to present from the beginning of the primaries without actually winning any primaries. This elusive aura seems easier to project when you are actually winning.

Because of my respect for Rep. John Lewis, I decided not to go with the “house negro” scenario and instead discuss the super-delegate issue. I have nothing but respect for John Lewis, while all those other sophisticated blacks were ducking, John Lewis was getting his head cracked and being attacked by viscous dogs. And even though he could have taken the road of Andrew Young, Jesse Jackson, and other so-called civil rights leaders and gone for self, all he wanted was just to represent his little Georgia district. He truly was a civil rights lion in the fight for equality, so it comes with sadness that it took what it took to get him onboard with Barack Obama. It is very easy to talk about how one should vote when all of the candidates that have ever run have always looked like you. It is easy to say I never focus on color when all of the candidates have been the same color and it just so happens to be your color. I would never advocate anyone voting for a candidate based on his color alone, but having someone to vote for that is your color doesn’t hurt. I shouldn’t vote for Barack Obama because he is black, but I should not vote for him because he is black either.

What I think we are going to see in the coming weeks is as Senator Obama continues to rack up wins in “insignificant” states that many of those super delegates that the Clinton’s were counting on to put them over the top in a tight convention fight are going to begin to desert the ship. You know the ones who were endorsing her before a single vote was cast they are going to get nervous. Let’s face it in politics you are only as powerful as your access to power and many of these politicians will not let the opportunity slip by to be on the winning team. It is a lot easier to get access as a supporter than as an ex-foe. If as I predict there is a significant number of super delegates that switch allegiances prior to the next big round of primaries, it will make very difficult for Hillary to continue. While she will not be mathematically eliminated, the pressure will build to end it sooner rather than later. If that happens then we will see if the nomination is more important to her than the Party. I think this is the question no one really knows the answer to.

Jay Carson, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, said Thursday: “Congressman Lewis is a true American hero, and we have the utmost respect for him and understand the great pressure he faced. And Senator Clinton enjoys incredibly strong support from superdelegates around the country from all regions and races.”

The comments by Mr. Lewis underscored a growing sentiment among some of the party’s black leaders that they should not stand in the way of Mr. Obama’s historic quest for the nomination and should not go against the will of their constituents. As superdelegates, they may have the final say, which is something Mr. Lewis said he feared would weaken Democrats and raise Republicans’ chances of winning the White House.[1]

For now the hemorrhaging appears to only be among the black super delegates who feel a sense of shame by not supporting the black candidate against the wishes of their constituents. I believe though that there will be more super delegate leakage and all those super delegate scenarios and conspiracies written about over the last couple of weeks won’t be worth the paper they were written on. We have to remember who the super delegates are, these are career politicians. And like any good politician they are looking forward to their next job in someone’s administration. After what we have seen this past two years in Congress to expect loyalty from these folks is asking a bit much. So what’s it going to be Neo? The red pill or the blue pill?


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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hispanics: Obama’s Fly in the Ointment

With the large state primaries looming in the near future and their large Hispanic populations, Senator Obama will have a tough time succeeding in those states without the support of Hispanic voters. If the exit polls of the Super Tuesday primaries are any indication he could lose the nomination not because whites would not vote for him or blacks not supporting him, but because Hispanics for the most part have not. While there are a number of theories why Senator Obama has not done well with Hispanics, I would like to investigate a few of my own as to why Hispanics have continued to support Senator Clinton over Senator Obama.

One of the biggest hurdles for Senator Obama and Hispanics is the name recognition that Hillary has among Hispanics, many Hispanics have fond memories of the Clinton’s and have more trust in the Clinton brand. Ex-President Bill Clinton has always enjoyed high popularity and favorable ratings from Hispanics and that seems to be getting transferred to Hillary. Hillary of course has also been seen as someone who is willing to speak out for Hispanic issues, so there is a familiarity with the Clintons. Many Hispanic voters, especially older immigrants are not familiar with Obama and his stands on issues that matter to them. Senator Obama will need to increase his outreach to Hispanics as many have seen his campaign as in the early stages ignoring the Hispanic vote. I think Senator Obama mistakenly assumed since he received so much of the Hispanic vote in his Senatorial campaign that they would naturally support him nationally. The problem with this approach was that he forgot that his opponent in that election was Alan Keyes and not Hillary Clinton.

Another issue that has arisen is the tension that exists between blacks and Hispanics in many of our larger urban areas. There has never been a lot of cooperation between blacks and Hispanics even though one would assume that they share many natural common issues. For some reason Hispanics and blacks have bought into the zero sum game, that in order for one group to prosper it has to be at the expense of the other group. They have accepted the narrative that there are only a limited number of opportunities for minorities and we have to fight each other for the few slots available.

Still, others wonder whether such surveys accurately reflect the reality on American streets, where tensions among blacks and Hispanics have increased in past years as Hispanic immigrants pour into inner-city neighborhoods, competing with their black American neighbors for jobs, housing, services — and a seat at the table on local school boards and town councils.

Hispanics have surpassed blacks as the nation's largest minority, comprising about 15 percent of the U.S. population today.

"We've been fighting in this country for our place — and so is every minority," Jimenez said, surmising that Hispanics' Super Tuesday snubbing of Obama stems from viewing him as "a competing minority rather than a serious candidate for president."

There is also the issue of color in the Hispanic community in many Latin American countries leadership and wealth is based on skin color, the group with the lighter skin color or a closer link to Span have a history of looking down on and dominating their darker skinned indigenous brethren. There is also a history of this phenomenon in the black community where many lighter skinned blacks looked down on their darker skinned brothers. I don’t know if there is anything as depressing as the prejudice found within minority groups as well as between the groups. Rather than seeing their common enemy they have instead focused on fighting for crumbs. Too often blacks have feared and resented Hispanic immigrants who they believe are taking employment and other opportunities. Hispanics have resented blacks who they fear have been anti-immigration and territorial.

It is possible for black candidates to enlist the support and gain the votes of Hispanics, but it requires a lot of work and some face time. These things the Obama camp did not do in the early contests, but have done a better job of lately. I just hope he will have time to introduce himself to the Hispanic voters. I think as he continues to pile up states and delegates before the Texas and Ohio primaries the Hispanic vote will continue to increase. If Obama wants to win the nomination and then win the general, he will need the votes of the Hispanics. If Hispanics look at Obama’s record they will see that he is not some Johnny come lately and that he has stood with them on many issues. Let’s not let racial and cultural animosity prevent us from electing someone who will serve the interest of all of us. Si, se puede!


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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Extreme Makeover: John McCain Edition 2008?

With his nomination all but inevitable, the Republican machine is ready to begin the process of selling John McCain as a maverick and a different kind of Republican. He will be presented as someone who appeals to Democrats and Independents, a unity candidate of the first order. The problem is that John McCain is not a mainstream candidate, he is a war-mongerer and has no intention of letting the American people decide what to do about Iraq. He will be another “decider” who knows better than the American public what is best for us. The MSM has already begun the John McCain make-over, the same folks who had pronounced his campaign all but dead in December are now trumpeting his “straight talk”, independent candidacy as right for America.

It has always amazed me how John McCain has been given this independent moniker by the MSM. To be sure John McCain has split with the Republican Party on some issues, but a look at his record reveals the true nature of McCain. A review of his voting record shows a troubling trend, Mr. McCain in a number of controversial votes has chosen to not vote. He has missed 56.6% of the votes during this Congress alone. How Senator McCain can be labeled an independent and a maverick while still voting with the Republicans 87.8% of the time is a mystery to me. I guess it is the same logic used to proclaim Senator Lieberman an independent, I guess that is why they have been inseparable during the later stages of this campaign; birds of a feather.

The same strategy that was used to get George W. Bush into the White House will be deployed again. Remember in 2000, Bush was going to be the great uniter, an independent Republican. How did that work out? For anyone who thought the Republican brand was DOA, I have news for you with McCain there will be the talk of change without any change. His nomination will allow the Republicans to spin his candidacy as a new direction for the country when in reality it will be the same old story. The Republicans will go for the best of both worlds, they have already begun to have George W. try to coalesces the Party faithful but I guarantee you once the primaries are over McCain’s campaign will dissociate itself from George W so fast heads will spin. The only policy that they will cling to is the most dangerous one, the Iraq War. With the Bush administration already laying the groundwork for freezing current troop levels and backing away from troop reductions promised at the last General Petraeus meet and greet, McCain will argue to stay the course.

If staying the course was bad policy last year, what has occurred since then to make it a good strategy this year? Oh yeah, the surge is working. This has to be the biggest crock of BS ever sold to the American public. And as the general election approaches make no mistake the chorus will become louder singing the praises of this false narrative. The problem is simply this, even if we keep troops there for a hundred years and the violence is reduced if the Iraqi’s do not make the tough decisions to reconcile their country we will still be in no better position than we were at the beginning of this fiasco. What these conservative clowns don’t understand is that this will never be resolved militarily and as long as we provide cover for the Iraqi government to drag their feet and solidify their gains we are only prolonging the inevitable and keeping our troops in harm’s way.

I find it almost comical that the McCain camp has stolen the “Day One” slogan from the Clinton campaign, he will be “commander and chief from day one” and will be able to escalate our involvement in both wars and if we are lucky will be able to start another one. As long as these fools can continue the nation at war scenario in need of a strong military President, this nation will be ill prepared for the reality that the rest of the world has no problem seeing. As we are seeing with the cracks in our NATO alliances, the rest of the world is not buying the Islamo-fascist war of our generation mind-f**k the warmongers are perpetrating. The closer the empire is to decay the harder the colonial task masters fight to cling to the myth. The decay begins long before the rust appears on the armor, it begins when the Empire forgets the principles that made it great in the first place. Is there any doubt that we no longer stand for those principles?

The social conservatives are already lining up to sell their principles to the highest bidder. There are a few of the rank and file who are clinging to their skewed principles and still supporting Mike Huckabee, but the leadership has already surrendered. We will now witness the transformation of John McCain into a social conservative standard bearer, “ a true conservative” if you will. We will watch as his record is whitewashed and purged of any votes that are not in keeping with a true conservative. Bush says McCain has some convincing to do, I can only interpret this to mean that he has some flip-flopping to do. The question then becomes does McCain lose his independent image in his effort to woo his social conservative base which without he can not win in November? The tight-rope act begins for McCain and I am not so sure he is nimble enough to pull it off, but with the MSM holding the net anything is possible.

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